A promising future in dance for Shaira Comeros
By Michele T. Logarta
No one was more stunned than Ballet Manila's teen ballerina Shaira May Comeros when she was called to the stage anew at the 2016 Asian Grand Prix in Hong Kong last August. After all, she had already been named as 5th placer in the Junior B division and did not expect anything more.
But the pleasant surprise came in the form of the Most Promising Female Dancer Award at the international ballet competition. It took her totally by surprise – but one that she, of course, welcomed when the reality sank in.
“Nakaupo lang po ako, biglang natawag po 'yung number ko – JB18. Sobrang gulat na gulat. Hindi po ako makapaniwala. Habang paakyat po sa stage, medyo nanginginig ang lakad ko (I was seated when my number JB 18 was called. I was so shocked. I couldn’t believe it. I was shaking as I walked up the stage),” Shaira recalls of that wonderful moment.
AGP jury president Garry Trinder cited Shaira’s strong potential to become a successful ballerina. “Kelangan ko lang daw po ng training. Sinabi po niya 'yun sa stage.” (He said all I needed is more training. That is what he said on stage.)
BM artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde has enthusiastically echoed what Trinder said to Shaira at the awarding: “I can't wait to see her full potential.”
Shaira actually grew up surrounded by romantic and graceful tutus, flowing skirts and various accoutrements that ballet dancers wear onstage. The daughter of costume makers Eleseo and Corazon Comeros, she was no stranger to the world of ballet. She remembers her home being filled with sewing machines.
“Bata pa lang po sila ni Nanay, 'yun na po ang trabaho nila (Since they were young, that was already their job),” Shaira says of her parents. She credits her father as the reason she is a ballet dancer today.
Shaira started ballet lessons at the age of seven under a scholarship at the Julie Borromeo Performing Arts Foundation. At the time, her father worked as a costume maker for the school. They would travel from their home in Bulacan to Manila every week so she could attend class.
As a Julie Borromeo scholar, Shaira received training in various dance genres such as tap, flamenco, jazz, ballroom, hiphop and ballet. She also got the chance to perform with the Philippine Ballet Theater.
“Sister company po kasi 'yon. Habang under po ako ng Julie, minsan kinukuha nila ako for PBT shows.” (It was a sister company of the school. While I was with the school, PBT would sometimes ask me to join their shows.)
Shaira’s first show with PBT was The Nutcracker where she was a snowflake and one of the little dolls.
Shaira is the fifth of six siblings. All went through ballet classes. Two older brothers were company members of PBT. All, except for the youngest, were at one time with Julie Borromeo. The youngest, who is now seven, participated in the last BM summer recital.
When Shaira’s father took on the job as costume maker for BM, the whole family also moved to the BM compound in Pasay. He also asked Shaira if she wanted to transfer as well.
“Sabi po ni Tatay kung gusto ko pong lumipat ng BM kasi malayo din kasi 'yung Mandaluyong mula dito.” (My father asked me if I wanted to transfer to BM because the Julie Borromeo school in Mandaluyong is far from here.)
She admits that she had second thoughts about it and was hesitant to make the move, as she had grown fond of her school and PBT. But she finally took the leap and joined BM as a trainee in January this year. There was a period of adjustment, Shaira says. She confesses to feeling overwhelmed and self-conscious sometimes.
“Ang gagaling kasi ng mga trainees. Tapos ako nasa gilid lang. Sineryoso ko ang training ng BM. Sobrang strict. Very specific. Bihira po 'yung ganu'ng training.” (The trainees are so good. I would stay on the sidelines. I took the training at BM very seriously. It is extremely strict and very specific. That kind of training is rare.)
She considers her extensions as her weakness, but she says she has been working a lot on that. At BM, Shaira has had to grapple with rigorous training. “Lahat ng position mo, the head, kahit maliit na bagay, iko-correct ka nila. (Every position you take, your head, every little thing, they will correct.)” But she knows it's all part of the process so she can continue to get better and stronger as a dancer.
With BM, Shaira has performed as a Wili in Giselle. The role of the Wili was very challenging, she says. “Una po, 'yung mag-ste-stay ka lang duon, nakatayo ka lang for the whole act, kahit 'yun lang ang gagawin mo, sobrang hirap.” (To stay there and remain standing for the whole act, even if you were doing only that, was extremely difficult.)
As part of Ballet Manila 2, Shairaappears regularly in Ballet Pinoy, a free show offered weekly by Ballet Manila at Star City. Here, she is one of the girls chasing after an ice cream peddler. “Masaya siya. Kahit every week, hindi nakakasawa. Kasi po puwede pong ma-develop ang character sa stage.” (It is a happy role. Even if we do it every week, I never tire of it because the character can be developed in many ways.)
Shaira danced as Little Red Riding Hood in The Swan, the Fairy and the Princess, BM's second production for its 21st performance season. She will also be joining the CCP Ballet Competition in November. For that, she is working on a classical variation, the Dawn Variation from Coppelia and a modern piece choreographed by Rudy de Dios.
At 16, Shaira is not afraid of hard work. She’d like to be Kitri one day. “Dream role po talaga. Sobrang strong ang personality niya. Bravura 'yung expression (That is a dream role. Her personality is very strong. It’s a bravura role),” describes this young woman and would-be leading lady of ballet's famed Don Quixote.